“Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”
These are the words of the great Vince Lombardi who, as a coach, succeeded at every level and with every sports team he managed. The power of his methods are not, however, limited to the playing field and are translatable to executing successful organizational change and may be particularly relevant in the age of digital disruption.
Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers ran what was known as the “power sweep,” in which linemen would lead a running back in a flanking maneuver around the opposing defense. It was a complex play with many moving parts including pulling guards and counter blocks. The running back had to run wide and “read” the blocks to know whether to run to the outside or cut back inside. True, his teams had talent, but Lombardi relentlessly prepared his teams to run this play. He did it first in the classroom and then on the practice field.
“Practice doesn’t make perfect,” Lombardi would say; “Perfect practice makes perfect.”
Lombardi’s teams practiced, practiced, and practiced, so when they executed they were prepared for any contingency. The opponent knew what was coming, but couldn’t stop it. Lombardi’s teams were in a constant state of “readiness.” His teams were so ready, in fact, that they transformed their offense – and the National Football League – using an innovative and complex running game. Green Bay, Wisconsin – a virtual professional football wasteland in the late 1950’s, was to be forever known as “Titletown” because of Lombardi’s transformation efforts.
Whether a sports team, a military unit, or an organization, “readiness” is the constant training and preparing for the next mission. In the context of digital transformation, it is the building and refining of capabilities and culture to perform and transform. The more prepared or ready an organization, the more likely it will achieve its desired outcome. “Digital readiness” is being prepared for the disruption of “Digital Transformation.”
In an organizational context, transformation is a process of profound and radical change that orients an organization in a new direction and takes it to an entirely different level of effectiveness. Transformation implies a basic change of character with little or no resemblance with the past. Organizations must be ready for this – they can’t just “take the field,” so to speak, and expect to run the play they just “planned.”
Digital Transformation is disruptive. Gartner estimates that over 70% of transformation initiatives fail. Forbes puts the number as high as 84%.
In analyzing these failed efforts, analysts have found a range of issues:
- Leaders think transformation programs have a beginning and end; they don’t
- There is not a clear focus on what needs to change
- People mistakenly associate new technology with transformation
- There is too much focus on just technology
- People are unaware of the reasons for the change
- People are not willing to accept the changes
True digital transformation is more than just implementing ‘digital practices’ and digital technologies. Digital transformation is about optimizing business or organizational effectiveness via digital investments and IT services. Transformation occurs when business strategies or major sections of an organization are altered. This can be quite disruptive and stressful for an organization. The plans may be great, but the lack of transformational readiness presents additional and unnecessary risk. There are a range of issues that provide the basis for a successful transformation, including of modicum of operational maturity, the culture of the organization, and human reaction to change — all of which are interdependent with the organization’s ability to be agile and adapt. In short, transformation efforts fail because organizations are not “ready” to transform.
An important component of readiness is preparing the culture for what is to come, which begins with understanding your culture enough to make it capable of both constructively causing, and reacting to, disruption. Using Lombardi’s teams as an example, the team was so ready both in capability and culture that several different running backs ran the power-sweep over eight years with little or no drop-off in productivity. The capabilities and culture were so strong that “the next man up” was ready to perform what the organization had already learned. Transformation was made sustainable.
Lombardi left the Packers to coach the Washington Redskins and in his first year with his new team broke a string of fourteen consecutive losing seasons for the beleaguered franchise. Perhaps unsurprisingly, after Lombardi’s departure, the Packers failed to make the playoffs for the next five seasons demonstrating that readiness must be constantly maintained — it is a journey, not a destination.
Transformation is important, but readiness must not be overlooked – no matter the context. Building and sustaining the capabilities and culture to not only respond to disruption, but to be disruptive, is a critical requirement to digital transformation. But it all begins with readiness.
About The Author:
Dr. Frank Granito is Partner, Institute Fellow, and Chief Scientist at the Institute for Digital Transformation. He has over 35 years of experience in the Information Technology field and also is Founder and CEO of Granito & Associates. In his role as Chief Scientist, Dr. Granito has designed the evaluation tools and analytics for the Digital Readiness Framework to assist organizations as they transition and adapt to the Digital Age. Dr. Granito holds a Doctor of Management from the University of Maryland University College and his work in Organizational Culture resulted in a Culture Model and Assessment Instrument tailored to IT Service Management implementations. He has successfully implemented IT Service Management transformation solutions for Government and Commercial clients. He is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland University College Graduate School in the Masters of Project Management Program and is an Authorized Training Partner for ITIL and PMBOK.